U.S. Researchers are lucky – as the top-tier Universities are very strong Brands

This is a little off-topic – but over the last days, I came to realize how much easier it appears to be for top (psychology) researchers in the U.S. to “create buzz” around their research and/or book publications compared to their German colleagues.

Over the last weeks, a couple of researchers in the field of Positive Psychology and adjacent whom I am loosely acquainted with (e.g., Adam Grant, Scott Barry Kaufman, and Emma Seppälä) or whom I would like to be loosely acquainted with (e.g., Amy Cuddy – we´re following each other on Twitter; I guess that doesn´t count…) have published new books (Congratulations to all of you!):

Because a) these are all fabulous books; b) they all probably have more than decent PR agents; and c) I follow a heck of a lot of Positive Psychology people on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn my timelines are bursting with posts about their books (reviews, excerpts, and interviews). Now here´s the interesting thing – look at these headlines:

This is a random sample. Even though – from my perspective – Adam Grant has become a sort of personal brand, and Amy Cuddy is well on her way to becoming one (there´s not too many social psychologists who get air time on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert), very often the research is marketed via the university they are affiliated with.

So, it´s clear that these institutions over time have managed to become strong brands. Their names validate and even amplify the messages publicized by their faculties. That’s a really cool thing!

Now, if you are from the U.S. you might say: Duh, tell me something new. But seen from a German perspective, this is really remarkable – because (currently) this would never work over here. You just won’t see a headline along the lines of “A Humboldt University of Berlin Researcher says X” – because the names of the universities do not really add any credibility to the message (at least not in the realm of psychology; with, e.g., engineering, it might be a slightly different story).

As a side note: I have not seen that many headlines featuring my MAPP alma mater, UPenn (with Wharton Business School being the exception). Maybe, it’s time for some more brand-building here?


Positive Psychology is gaining ground in Deutschland: New Associations and Conferences

Flag - German SmileyAbout two years ago, I uttered an outcry via Mappalicious: Positive Psychology in Germany – where are you? In the meantime, someone answered, as the movement is gaining some traction in Germany. Here´s an overview of Positive Psychology Associations and conferences taking place this year:

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Positiv-Psychologische Forschung (DGPPF e.V. – English: German Association for Research in Positive Psychology)

The DGPPF is an association of scientists from all academic backgrounds who conduct research on and teach positive psychology. It is an interdisciplinary research and teaching association which seeks to promote and disseminate the science of positive psychology. Over the next years, they plan to host congresses, promote publications, create empirical instruments, collect data, create a journal, and much more.

DGPPF will host a conference at University of Trier from May 19-21, 2016: “State of the Art – Zum Stand der positiv-psychologischen Forschung im deutschsprachigen Raum” (Info)

Deutschsprachiger Dachverband für Positive Psychologie (DACH-PP e.V. – English: The German-speaking Association of Positive Psychology | GAPP)

GAPP’s goal is to bring the concept and methods of Positive Psychology to the attention of a broader public in the German-speaking countries. GAPP supports the practical application of PP in areas such as coaching, psychotherapy, counseling, school, business and politics. GAPP wants to serve as a communication platform for initiatives which are rooted in academic application of positive psychology.

GAPP will host a conference at Freie Universität Berlin from September 17-18, 2016: “Erste Konferenz des DACH-PP – Positive Psychologie für die Praxis” (Info)

The German Chapter of the European Network for Positive Psychology (ENPP)

The European Network for Positive Psychology (ENPP) is a collective of European researchers and practitioners with shared interests in the science and practice of positive psychology. Researchers and practitioners from other disciplines like economics, sociology, philosophy or biology are also invited to participate.

The website www.positive-psychologie.org is currently under construction. In the meantime, you might want to check out the general ENPP Homepage.

ENPP will host the “8th European Conference on Positive Psychology” at Angers (France) from June 28-July 1, 2016. (Info)

Positive Psychologie Tour 2016

Additionally, you might be interested to hear that some of the spearheading figures in Positive Psychology will be coming to Germany and Austria over the summer for several conferences and workshops, among them Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, Roy Baumeister, Tayyab Rashid, and Kim Cameron. All information can be found here.


Picture source

Loneliness is a Killer! A TEDx Talk and the Story of my Life

One of the central tenets of Positive Psychology is Other People Matter, coined by the late Prof. Christopher Peterson. If you want to learn just how much they matter to your happiness and your health, you might want to watch this TED talk by Prof. John Cacioppo from University of Chicago.

My Story

Now, I perfectly know from my own life what Prof. Cacioppo is talking about. When I was 16, I went to the USA for a year to attend high school and improve my English skills. I left my family and friends behind – platforms such as Skype and Facebook weren’t available (in fact, Mark Zuckerberg probably was entering middle school at that time). I agreed to have a phone call with my parents only every other Sunday – in order not to abet homesickness. Bad idea, most likely…

For reasons which are to complex and difficult to explain (if it can be explained at all – because every person will have a very different vantage point…), this was by far the loneliest year of my life. I found it hard to connect to my guest families and the larger part of my schoolmates.* For most of the time, m closest social connections consisted of other exchange students (during school hours) and the folks I encountered during basketball pick-up games (in the afternoon). Other than that, for most of the year, I felt utterly alone and devoid of warm social connections, let alone love.

I am now perfectly aware what a situation like this does to your body and your soul. When I came to the U.S., I was a healthy and (ordinarily) happy teenager. By the time I went home, I had developed allergy-based asthma, suffered from recurring panic attacks, and was – according to what I´ve learned during my psychology studies later in life –  more than mildly depressed (including, at times, suicidal thoughts). It took me several years to shake all of this off – but I did.

Full Circle

To end this post on a high note (or rather: two high notes), I have to add that even though this was probably the worst year of my life, that doesn´t mean it hasn’t been a valuable experience. On the one hand, it´s a classic case of “What doesn´t kill me makes me stronger“. On the other hand – and that may be a strangely wonderful twist of fate – this year gave my life a whole new direction. The high school I attended offered psychology as an elective course. These two hours or so every week always were among the regular lights at the end of my tunnel. And I think my psychology teacher is the reason why I chose to pursue that profession later on in my life.

And then, there´s this other – equally beautiful and strange – twist of fate. Mappalicious exists as a blog because I was part of the ninth cohort of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania – it started as a kind of diary. So, 19 years after what I´ve described above, I spent another year in the U.S. (more precisely, several days per months as travelled back and forth between Germany and Philly). Actually, it all happened only about a hundred miles from where I went to school.

And boy, what a difference it has been. It´s been a year full of human bonding, a time of joy, and caring, and yes: love. And, in the light of my past, it´s been a year of healing. Full circle.

Nico Rose - MAPP - Penn Graduation

* I´m not blaming anybody, because it´s actually nobody´s fault. Let´s just say that U.S. high schools can be a pretty tough environment when you´re not exactly part of the in-crowd…


Positive Psychology Blogs around the Globe

World_FlagRecently, I´ve posted an article listing my ten favorite Positive Psychology blogs – and afterwards, I realized that all of them are US-based. And while most researchers and practitioners certainly live/work there, there´s lots of good stuff to be discovered in other parts of the world (and of course, on other languages than English). Even, if you don´t speak French, Spanish or the like, by using sites like Google Translate, you´ll be able to understand it all.

Here are some suggestions:

Share and enjoy!


If you know Positive Psychology blogs from around the world that post regularly and displaying high quality content, please leave a comment…

German Workforce is especially stressed out. One more reason to bring Positive Psychology to Deutschland

Stress - Germans - ADPThe European branch of HR consulting firm ADP has surveyed some 11,000 employees across eight countries of the continent (link to press release). One of the striking results:

Despite (Or maybe: Due to?) a distinctly flourishing economy which displays an unemployment level at its lowest since the time before the reunification, Germany’s workforce seems to be utterly stressed out. 50% of workers report they are “frequently stressed” at work. That puts us in second place behind the Polish. On the other end of the continuum, stress levels are the lowest in the Netherlands*. Now what is happening here? Are my fellow countrymen really all that stressed? Or is just more accepted, or even en vogue, to report that one is stressed out?

Because the funny thing is: Several other studies show that Germans work considerably less hours per year compared to almost any other nation. Most of us can take between 24 and 30 days of vacation, there’s countless bank holidays – and working hours are pretty acceptable on average (see some more details here). So, by any means, this should be a workers’ paradise. Still, 50% heavily complain about the status quo.

My guess: it’s a question of mindsets, of attention, and focus. I’ve already written several posts on how German culture has an inclination towards “loving the negative”, and how we are overly anxious on average (e.g., how German lacks some positive words; or how studying Positive Psychology to me seemed like a course in being Un-German). Feeling overly stressed at work when we really live in a sort of land of milk and honey seems like a relative of “German Angst” or “Weltschmerz”.

But beware, my fellow countrymen: Positive Psychology will definitely come to a place somewhere near you. Even if I have to do it all by myself…


*According to the cliché, that must be because of all that dope they smoke over there…

I´ve got 99 Words for Happiness, but the Germans only have One

In earlier posts, I´ve shared with you my personal feeling that Positive Psychology and the German language seem to be a bit of a mismatch, as my mother tongue is impoverished with respect to words describing positive experiences and states of being. Later on, I shared a study that is able to demonstrate that some languages are indeed happier than others – in that they are able to “hold” more positivity.

Today, I stumbled upon another piece of evidence pertaining to that matter. Below, you´ll see screenshots of the two most important translation websites in Germany. On the left, you can see the English words, a wide array positive states (of mind). On the right, the German translations are displayed. As you can see, all those English words are translated into the same German expression: Glück.

If Wittgenstein was right, and “The limits of my language means the limits of my world”, then having only a single word for what really should be a wide spectrum of words (corresponding to a wide spectrum of feelings) can be likened to being color-blind. It´s an impaired state of perception, or at least an impaired ability to convey one´s perceptions. And what good are emotions if they cannot be accurately named and shared?

Glueck - Luck

Glueck - Luck

Psychology is still ruled by the Disease Model. But Positivity and Strength-Orientation are gaining Ground

When I talk about Positive Psychology in Germany, I also talk about the necessity for this rather recent branch of research and practice (see the slides below), referring to the fact that most psychological research is centered around a disease model, thereby concentrating on mental illness, its antecedents, and cures – just as Martin Seligman and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi propose in their seminal article Positive Psychology: an Introduction.

Today, I wanted to check if this is really true – and if the onset of Positive Psychology at this millennium has does anything to change that conjectured imbalance. Therefore, I went to Google Scholar and searched for articles which titles` contain either the words depression, anxiety, happiness, or life satisfaction. For a first round, I limited the search to articles that were published between 1900 and 1999. For a second round, I counted all the articles that have been published afterwards. Here´s what I´ve found:

Depression Happiness Graph

A first stunning finding* is the fact that, in the last 15 years, more papers were published than in the previous 100, no matter on what subject. Whether that is a desirable development with regard to quality and impact remains to be seen.

But more importantly, the imbalance between research focusing on desirable vs. undesirable states is clearly visible in the chart. In the 20th century, papers focusing on depression outnumber those focusing on happiness by a factor of 13. For anxiety and life satisfaction, it´s factor 10.9.

Now what has changed over the last 15 years? The answer is: Positive Psychology has made quite an impact: an increasing publication rate in this branch of psychology results in a (at least slightly) more balanced ratio. Depression outnumbers happiness by “only” 5.7, anxiety outnumbers life satisfaction by “only” 5.8.

I´ve put the world “only” in parentheses since that still is very far away from a sort of equilibrium. But progress has been achieved. And there will be more…

Traditional Psychology  Positive Psychology - Dr. Nico Rose






* Of course, the overall number of publications is much higher. But I suppose that counting papers containing a specific word in the title is a pretty decent proxy for the general writing activity in a sub-branch of research.

SCHLAAAAAND! How the Soccer World-Cup helps to Build a Likeable Version of the “German Nation”

Just FYI: I´m writing these lines under the impression of watching some 400.000 people on TV cheering for our successful soccer team at their reception close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (picture source):

Berlin - World-Champions

Truth is: I´m not really into soccer. I hardly care about the German Bundesliga (our “major league”). But today, I´d like to write about soccer. Or rather, about the role that soccer – and winning the world-cup 2014 – plays for Germany and the “German identity”.

Where shall I begin? Let me say, that it was kind of strange growing up as a young man in Germany. I was born 33 years after the end of World War II (my father was born during the last months of war) – and very soon, each and every person that has actually fought in this war will be dead and gone (like my grandpa). In spite of this, WW II (and Hitler, and everything that comes with that…) is still the big “national elephant in the room”.

Hitler is still the “big national elephant in the room”.

On a pre-conscious, between the lines level, it still affects everything a German does (or does not). If you want to put it in terms of transactional analysis: Many things that are “OK” for just about anybody in the world, are “not OK” if your´re German – at least not if you´re “too German” (whatever that may be…). As I´ve lived in Pennsylvania for a year during my adolescence (and additionally studied there over the last couple of months) I´d like to give you some contrasting examples from the US, especially concerning the use of national symbols.

  • When you´re walking around in the U.S. sporting a t-shirt displaying the “Stars & Stripes”, people will likely smile at you and give a thumbs-up.  It´s a cool thing to do. When you´re walking around in Germany sporting a t-shirt displaying the “Black, Red and Gold” there´s a good chance that people will frown upon you. What they say without saying it: “Are you a f…ing Nazi or what?”
  • Equally, it´s a really really bad idea to sing the German national anthem – apart from those rare occasions where it´s deemed appropriate, e.g., before extraordinarily important soccer games. In the U.S., you sing the national anthem almost every day (just because the school day starts, or because there´s a middle school basketball game, or just because it´s a beautiful day…whatever…). And it´s cool. The U.S. anthem was played “for me” at Penn commencement 2014 – and I sang it with my fellow American students – not because I feel like I´m American, but because it´s a beautiful song, and it was a celebratory moment, and it was the right thing to do.
  • And don´t even try to say something like “I´m proud to be German” in public. It´s the best way to ruin your reputation, your career, and might even bring you to the hospital if you happen to do it in the presence of people from the (far) left-wing scene.

By the way, I feel it´s not a very intelligent thing to say. It´s not an achievement to be born in a specific country, so philosophically speaking, it´s an “error of category”. How can anybody be proud of something that has just happened to him/her by chance? But the point is: in the U.S. (and probably any other country on this planet), it´s OK to do so.

And this is where the soccer world-cup tournaments come into play. The tournament in 2006 hosted in Germany was at least a light episode of thaw. Suddenly, you would see Germans carrying around German flags, cheering for their country in broad daylight (and late at night, for that matter). Regular, nice-looking people – not those skinhead neo-Nazi dickheads. Of course, they would put the flags onto their cars by the millions. And people from all over the world visited our country to celebrate. They discovered that Germans are mostly likeable, party hard and welcome foreigners with open arms (aside from the aforementioned die-hard assholes from the old school…that, frankly speaking, can be found in any nation on earth). The weather was really nice. The atmosphere was peaceful. And for five weeks or so, it was “OK” again to be German – and to even show it. That´s why we call that time “Sommermärchen” (Summer Fairytale).

Winning the three titles in 1954, 1974, and 1990 was probably equally important for our “rebirth as a nation”. Earning the title against all odds in 1954 is called “Wunder von Bern” (Miracle of Bern). For the very first time after WW II, there was a glimpse of hope. For the very first time, Germans weren´t constrained to the (Ex-)Nazi role. In 1974, we won the cup in our own country, during a time of thaw with regard to the former USSR and especially East Germany. To that effect, the “world spirit” moved forward in that direction, and we won our third title in Italy in 1990 – in midst of the German reunification process.

But it took 16 more years for the German nation to come to terms with itself – at least for the above-mentioned five weeks of the summer miracle. I mean, looking down from space, there are no “borders”, no “countries”, and no “governments”. But as long as we have to live in a geo-political system that endorses national states, in my opinion it´s a valuable and utterly healthy thing to feel at least a decent level of identification with regard to the country that the “karma lottery” has put us in.

Yet, being born in Germany still means carrying a small share of a huge “historical hypothecation”. And while there may be political entities in other countries that – once in a while – like to remind the Germans of their “historical guilt”, that burden is mostly renewed from within. As a nation, we´re still kind of obsessed with Hitler. Of course it´s not an obsession in an admiring sense. Rather, it´s that mode where one is not able to take the eyes off of a horrible car accident. You´ll find a Hitler story at least every other week or so on the cover of one of the important German weekly magazines. And sometimes, I get the impression that there´s a law requiring our German news channels to broadcast WW II documentaries on a daily basis after 10:00 pm.

To make things worse, there is a well-developed “self-abashment industry” that includes a big chunk of the (far) left-wing journalists in this country. I suspect that – out of utterly low self-regard (and even less self-compassion…) – their greatest pleasure and joy lies in trying to prevent other people from discovering and developing those qualities within themselves. Where foreign newspapers start to write really nice things about “Ze Germans” (please see the Washington Post, the Guardian, and ForeignPolicy.com for current examples), those poor creatures desperately try to find something to grouse about while the rest of the nation is busy celebrating “Jogis Jungs” (Jogi´s Boys).

This morning, they finally found the fly in the ointment so they could raise their priggish fingers: While stepping onto the stage in Berlin, a group of – most-likely dead-tired and hung-over German players – engaged in a dance/song that (in an utterly harmless manner that you´ll find in every German soccer stadium on any given Sunday…) lampooned the Argentinian players for ten seconds or so. The leftist press now tries to talk that up to a #Gauchogate – invoking images of the “Master Race” humiliating the rest of the “free world”.

Dear German self-abashment complex (including the political correctness thought police…): Even the British yellow press starts to really like the Germans. Maybe you want to join them?

I am not proud to be German. That´s bullshit. But I am proud of “our boys” – and how hard they´ve fought and suffered for their title. And I´m proud of my fellow Germans, seeing how they have supported and cheered for the team over the past five weeks, and how they have suffered vicariously by the millions in front of their TV screens and the countless public screenings.

We must never forget. But it´s time to forgive. And that includes ourselves.

We must never forget. But it´s time to forgive. And that includes ourselves. My son is 20 month old now. He was born 67 years after the war. I will work hard to make sure that he can grow up unaffected by that shadow of the past.


Positive Psychology in Germany – where are you?

Flag - German SmileyIn terms of age, Positive Psychology is now in its teenage years. Most of the stuff that´s been happening so far – be it research or practice – is located in in the USA (but PP is pretty well-developed in other Anglo-Saxon cultures such as the UK and Australia as well).

But what about my Germany, my mother country? Well, Germans in general are known for a lot of sought-after character traits – but we may just not be the perfect audience for Positive Psychology. At the end of the day, we´re not really the shiny happy people, right? And the more we need PP…maybe.

There are a few German PP researchers out there, but typically, they tend to work in the U.S., such as Matthias Mehl. I´m the third German MAPPster. The first one is Johannes Eichstaedt who is now a Ph.D. student at Penn´s Positive Psychology Center. The second one is Judith Mangelsdorf who now pursues a Ph.D. at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

A couple of months ago, the German (-speaking) Association of Positive Psychology was founded (is also associated with IPPA, the International Positive Psychology Association). In addition, a lot of information can be found via www.seligmaneurope.com.

If you are in Germany and interested in Positive Psychology – please reach out to me…


Picture source